Dish

The brisket eater

At Gabbana on Jasper Avenue, even the "caramelized ass" is tasty

“Mondays and Tuesdays, $10 Dinner $5 Lunch,” stated the sandwich board rather
matter-of-factly outside Gabbana last Monday evening. For years, I’ve
passed by this restaurant’s signage, glancing only half-interestedly at
its unassuming green awning boasting “Casual Dining.” But when word got out
amongst my friends that I had never eaten there, tales of must-have dishes
and fabulous experiences sprang forth. Was it possible? Was there actually an
establishment that offered great Asian fusion cuisine for the suspiciously
low price of $10? Would I actually be able to afford dessert for once?

My mind was full of these important questions upon entering the intimate
space, a tasteful and inoffensive blend of Ikea furniture and Sarah McLachlan
songs on the stereo. Claiming a fabulously overstuffed yellow leather booth
in the front window, we began to check what our $10 could buy.

The menu is exceptional. For dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays, there are no
fewer than eight options at $10, each more mouth-watering than the last. Our
guests decided on the five-ounce beef tenderloin ($15.95) and the chicken
breast sautéed in lemongrass, lime and coconut milk ($10), while my
wife selected the maple-cured Atlantic salmon ($10). Undecided, I asked our
server what part of the cow was the brisket. She couldn’t answer.
“It’s the ass,” my friend offered helpfully.

“I’ll have the Caramelized Ass,” I grinned at her. (It cost $10.)

Our drinks came quickly as we settled in to chat about our friend’s
latest business venture. At $6 a glass, the house red wines were rich
delights, and my chai tea ($2.25) was a pleasant blend of cinnamon spice
nectar in a blue china cup. The main courses were a little slow to arrive,
however, as the two-thirds-full restaurant seemed a bit understaffed, but
when the entrées made their entrance, we were stunned. Snaps to
Gabbana: true artistry goes into their presentation. Each bite of every meal
was tender and succulent, although it turned out that brisket in general just
doesn’t blow my hair back. (Maybe I sabotaged myself with that
“caramelized ass” comment.) Regardless, stealing morsels off my
companions’ plates was a delight, if a bit hazardous to my health. The
beef tenderloin, while a little smaller than expected, was sensational, while
the salmon proved tender and flaky and the chicken benefited beautifully from
the lemongrass’ sweet spiciness.

The best thing about getting a gourmet dinner for under $10, of course, is
that when they ask if you want to see the dessert menu, you can actually say
yes. After some deliberation, our guests selected the white chocolate
raspberry cheesecake ($6) and the hazelnut chocolate torte ($6), my wife
opted for the lemon blueberry cheesecake ($6) and I went for banana spring
rolls in ice cream ($5.50). (I hate bananas and love spring rolls, so I
decided to take a chance.) Not a cheesecake fan myself, I had to assume that
my wife’s single-minded concentration on her confection, and our
guest’s “Can’t talk. Eating.” reply to my queries meant a rave
review. My friend grudgingly parted with a bite of his hazelnut chocolate
torte, and a single taste revealed a cake that serenades your tastebuds with
all the flavours of a Ferrero Rocher. The biggest surprise was my spring
rolls, crisp on the outside and filled with warm, soft banana atop heavy
vanilla ice cream.

After a typical North American dinner, let alone one that includes dessert, I
generally feel unpleasantly full, but Gabbana managed to catch us by surprise
us on this front too: the light, tasty meal and rich dessert filled without
leaving us overstuffed, and it was easy on the wallet. I’ve seen the
Gabbana sign on Jasper Ave for years. Now I know why. V

Gabbana Casual Dining
11223 Jasper Ave • 488-0955

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